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Basic Behavior Principles from the Torah

Part of the The Torah For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The Torah is a guidebook for Jewish living — requiring a lifetime of study to learn and to refine your actions and personal qualities. While it contains hundreds of commandments of all kinds, there are some basic principles that guide personal behavior. These six are the most important prescriptions from the Torah for a healthy, spiritually sound life:

  • Good works or ma'asim tovim (mah-ah-seem toe-veem): Always be on the lookout for opportunities to do good things for others and for yourself. Get up on the right side of the bed, be nice, and always be the one who does the right thing.

  • Acts of kindness or gemilut chasadim (geh-meh-loot khah-sah-deem): Look at the world through eyes of compassion, empathize with the challenges of others, and look eagerly for opportunities to be kind to everyone, especially to those less fortunate than you.

  • Hospitality or hachnasat orchim (hakh-nah-saht ore-kheem): Invite family members, friends, and acquaintances to your home, be generous and gracious hosts, make sure your guests are comfortable, and treat them the way you'd like to be treated.

  • Charity or tzedakah (tzeh-dah-kah): Give generously to charities and to individuals who are in need. Make it a regular habit. Some sages say that there is no good deed more important than giving charity.

  • Visiting the sick or bikkur cholim (beer-khoor khoh-leem): Visit and/or call people you know who are ill and be sensitive to their needs. Know that visiting a sick person is part of their healing process and makes a big difference.

  • Evil speech or lashon hara (lah-shone ha-rah): Be careful with what you say, don't be verbally abusive, don't embarrass someone publicly, don't lie, and know that words can be cruel weapons.

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